Amino Acids Explained - The Building Blocks of
Protein and Life
is so much to learn and understand about amino acids that it may
lead you to some confusion. This confusion might leave you feeling
overwhelmed to the whole idea of amino acids but that would not
be the best idea since they are so important to maintaining health.
So for the sake of your health, muscle development, repairing of
muscle fibers and added fitness, I will do my best to lay down the
information in a way that will end the confusion and help you make
better choices when it comes to amino acid supplementation.
What Exactly Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the body's building blocks and they are the driving
force that produces the exact protein your body needs. Amino acids
play a role in energy, weight loss, building muscle tissue, mood
and overall brain function. There are essential and non-essential
amino acids along with one that isn't really spoken of often, which
is conditional amino acids.
Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. The only way
to get these amino acids is either supplementation or through dietary
means (eating different foods). Essential amino acids help repair
organs, muscles, glands, ligaments, tendons, nails, skin, and hair.
They also aid in the formation of antibodies which combat bacteria
and viruses, carry oxygen through the body, and play a role in muscle
activity. The nine essential amino acids are:
Three of these amino acids (valine, leucine, and isoleucine) are
grouped together and make up BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids.
Branched chain amino acids are given this name because their chemical
structure is unique in comparison to the other amino acids. Through
more recent studies, BCAAs have been shown to have anti-catabolic
(the prevention of muscle breakdown) and muscle building properties.
BCAAs also improve both protein synthesis, nitrogen retention, aid
in rapid muscle recovery, reduces muscle fatigue, boosts muscle
growth and helps in the preservation of lean muscle tissue.
amino acids can be produced by your body. However it doesn't mean
that your body will produce the required amount needed to maintain
homeostasis, especially during times of illness and stress. During
these times, supplementation may be necessary. Also it is important
to note that nonessential amino acids are produced through a chemical
transformation of a single or combination of essential amino acids.
The 11 nonessential amino acids include proline, serine, glycine,
tyrosine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, glutamine, alanine, arginine,
asparagine, and cysteine. In addition to these amino acids there
are nonessential amino acids that you can produce but are not part
of proteins. These include citruline, glutathione, hydroxyproline,
ornithine, and taurine. These are named non-proteinogenic amino
acids. These amino acids are usually metabolites of the proteogenic
Conditional amino acids are usually not essential. However, during
times of stress or illness, the need for them becomes dire. These
include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine,
proline, and serine. Trouble digesting food may be a sign of an
amino acid deficiency. This inability to absorb nutrients can lead
to poor health. If your diet is low in protein this can be the reason
for this deficiency. For this reason, a diet high in good quality
protein and sufficient amino acids, especially during times of trauma,
stress, or illness is imperative.
What's The "L" For?
You should always supplement with amino acids that have the letter
"L" before it's name, for instance, L-glutamine, L-arginine
and so on. The "L" stands for Laevorotatory. But to simplify,
amino acids that have the letter "L" in front of it's
name are more similar to the aminos that are in our bodies. The
opposing "D" is not as similar. The only exception is
D-phenylalanine, which treats chronic pain.
There are over 300 known amino acids. Of these 300, there is a
short list of amino acids useful to the human body. The majority
of the 300 amino acids are rare, not found on earth, or created
in labs. It is not necessary to research all of the aminos in existence.
Stick to the essential, nonessential, and conditional.
As a final note, I have listed a list of precautions that should
be considered when supplementing with amino acids. Do not take arginine
if you have genital herpes, or if you are prone to cold sores. Arginine
has been known to trigger outbreaks. Do not take more than the recommended
dose. Certain amino acids can be toxic when taken in excess. Some
symptoms of overdose include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Do
not take lysine and milk at the same time. If you take an individual
amino acid for longer than a month, you should change from the individual
amino to a complex of various aminos. This ensures that you get
a well balanced amount of the various amino acids versus an overabundance
of a particular one.
Due to the competing nature between protein and amino acids, it
is best if you take them at least 30 minutes apart. Taking them
at the same time will render one less effective. For better health
and fitness, allow enough time in between your protein and amino
acid intake. Remember, before you start any supplementation program
you should discuss your intended plan with your doctor, especially
if you suffer from any chronic conditions.